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Life by Committee Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Tabitha has hit puberty, gaining new curves, and has gotten a little boy crazy. Her best friends, feeling she has changed too radically, have dropped her cold. Her young parents are sympathetic but also slightly embarrassing, especially her pot-smoking father. Searching for friendship, she stumbles onto an online community called Life by Committee that makes her feel brave and a part of something. LBC members share secrets and are given assignments by the group's leader, tasks they say will help one grow as a person. Tabitha's secret is that she kissed someone else's boyfriend. Her assignment is to kiss him again. The teen starts to wonder if performing these dares, even though they make her feel free-spirited, is any way to live her life. Haydu captures the wild emotions of adolescence: the surging hormones, the power of getting people to pay attention because of your body, and the confusion over how that makes you feel. The narrative includes plenty of current teen concerns: online safety, gay friends, first love and sexual experience, drugs, sibling jealousy, and school achievement pressure—all culminating in a final scene pulled straight from the movies. The message about being your own person and making your own choices can be a bit heavy-handed, but readers who are avidly involved in social media communities will relate to the thrill of confessing secrets to strangers, rather than friends and family.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
“Looking for a book to read and discuss? This is it.” (Kirkus)
“Haydu captures the wild emotions of adolescence: the surging hormones, the power of getting people to pay attention because of your body, and the confusion over how that makes you feel….Readers who are avidly involved in social media communities will relate to the thrill of confessing secrets to strangers.” (School Library Journal)
“Haydu gets at the push-pull between wanting to keep and to divulge secrets, as well as the way that anatomy can feel like destiny.” (Publishers Weekly)
“An authentic, heartfelt read about the power of truth and the beauty of self-discovery.” (Sarah Ockler, author of #scandal and Twenty Boy Summer)
“Life by Committee is a fun, smart, and moving read with every delicious ingredient-romance, secrets, and unexpected twists. Assignment: Read this one.” (Deb Caletti, National Book Award Finalist and author of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart and The Last Forever)
“(Not so) Secret: I immediately fell in love with Corey Ann Haydu’s wonderful, fresh story about truth, love, and bravery. Your assignment: Read Life by Committee immediately!” (Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Better off Friends)
“This book is brilliant, thrumming with honesty and surprising truths.” (Terra Elan McVoy, author of Pure and The Summer of Firsts and Lasts)
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Top customer reviews
Suddenly being the “hot chick” in her small VT town isn’t making Tabitha any friends - but everything changes when she discovers an online community that tells her exactly how to live.
Why I Read It:
It takes place in a small town in Vermont. I was a teenager in a small town in Vermont. It sucked. Now I want to read about it.
Why It Rocked:
The Vermont-ness. Oh, man, did Haydu nail it. The cold, the isolation, the way everyone is sort of a hippie, the fact that the only things to do as a teenager are hang out in coffee shops, go snowboarding, or get high. I couldn’t have related more to Tabby’s sense of feeling trapped by the mountains and dreaming of a glamorous life in NYC and something bigger and better than her tiny town and little high school full of people she’s known forever. That was me. That was me SO HARD.
(At one point, a character name-drops the town next to mine. As the place to go to be a stoner. Hah. But also, true.)
The hot-girl-bullied-by-plain-girls theme was a refreshing, believable twist on the standard bullying trope. Being inside the hot girl’s head was fascinating (and excruciating): dealing with her insecurities, feeling the pain of missing not only her old friends but her old self. Tabitha really falls apart in this book. It’s hard to watch but impossible to put down.
Haydu also nails the experience of a life lived half-online and half-IRL. The way Tabitha tunes out the world to concentrate on LBC, the way she feels like these online strangers are her only real friends and events on the site spark her emotions throughout the day, reminded me so much of my old Livejournal days, when baring my soul online to strangers all over the world was the most important thing ever. It’s so easy to get sucked in. It’s so hard to describe in a way that matters. And Haydu does it so well.
The writing was real pretty, too.
What I Would Have Done Differently:
I liked that the “big reveal” in this book felt really surprising (I actually gasped on the subway), but I would have liked a couple more clues along the way. It also felt like there were some chapters missing between the first and final waves of resolution: some stuff happened with Tabitha’s parents off-page that I would have liked to see on-page, and then all of a sudden it was Big Climax O’Clock.
The climactic scene felt a tad overwrought to me. I mean, I guess it did its job because I cried. But, while the rest of the book rang absolutely, 100% true to my memories of being a teenager, the final scene felt a little…off. Maybe a little too feel-good. Which may be a personal projection, because I tend to like all things, even endings, to be dark.
This is a complex book in terms of the characters and their relationships, too. In Tabitha / Bitty, we get a perfect example of a girl that the world might dismiss for the choices she's made... the ways she's changed herself and been unapologetic about it. The book challenges the reader to look at Tabitha's choices and the way the world judges her. The other characters are similarly well-drawn, and Tabitha's parents are possibly some of my favorite parents in YA.
A highly recommended read.
First 80%- B
Last 20%- F
Tabitha has issues. Her former friends hate her. Her father's a pothead. Her 32 year old mother is pregnant. And she's kissing a boy who has a girlfriend. Then she stumbles upon a website Life By Committee. Tell a secret. Get an assignment. Report back. Tabitha first tells about kissing Joe. Her assignment: kiss him again. Then the assignments escalate.
I enjoyed the first 4/5th of LIFE BY COMMITTEE. Tabitha wasn't the most insightful or likable character, but I found her sympathetic in that when she acted selfishly. She had major self esteem issues, or she wouldn't be okay being Joe's secret and she wouldn't seek out an anonymous group of Internet strangers to tell her how to act. I found the whole LBC too far fetched to be believable. What 18 year old flies across the country to show up on her crush's doorstep unannounced? Then they tell her to propose and she considers it?
The ending ruined the story for me with incongruous coincidences that were just plain corny and the dumbest school assembly that would never happen. If I didn't enjoy reading the first 80% the ending alone would have made this a one star review.
THEMES: friendship, family, parents, dating, drugs, peer pressure
The ending of LIFE BY COMMITTEE is so bad the book isn't worth reading. Message me if you want to know more.